‘The Sweeney’ review

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“We’re The Sweeney, shithead; you’re nicked.”

The opening line uttered by the inimitable Ray Winstone within the first fifteen minutes of this gritty reworking of the ‘70s TV show of the same name, pretty much sets the tone for the remainder of the film – a far cry from the original where the similarities stop at the title.

Winstone, as hard-as-nails Jack Regan, heads up the rather cavalier police squad called The Sweeney, with Ben ‘Plan B’ Drew as his facety sidekick George Carter. Kicking in heads and taking names gets right up the nose of the some unsavoury types, who decide to stitch up Jack in connection with a series of murders. The rest of his team have to prove he’s innocent before he ends up spending the rest of his life behind bars.

Set right in the heart of London, the capital is almost a character in itself: sweeping shots of urban life, lingering shots of landmarks, a panoramic view from a hotel room window as Regan has it off with the boss’ wife.

Other than that it’s very much Winstone’s show. The British heavyweight gives a storming yet typical performance – grunting, swearing, panting, shouting. Fans of Ray won’t be disappointed. Fans of Plan B might be, however.

The rapper/actor (rapactor?) makes a good effort, but in the end comes across as slightly immature, like a child trying desperately to imitate his father, in this case Winstone. Perhaps a few more big screen outings will allow him to hone his craft.

Co-stars Damian Lewis and Hayley Atwell add gravitas – and a nice wardrobe – to proceedings, but their cockernee accents could have been more finely tuned. Both actors are a pleasure to watch otherwise.

While the first two-thirds of the film are pacey and sharp-witted (a car conversation about the attractiveness of a colleague’s girlfriend, Regan’s half-arsed attempts to lose weight); a drawn out fire fight and a clunky car chase towards the film’s climax do prompt a bit of watch-checking.

Overall, The Sweeney didn’t need to be made, but it’s perfect popcorn fodder as a cop film in its own right. Line of Duty it ain’t, though.

Released in UK cinemas on Wedneday 12th September 2012 by Entertainment One.

> Buy the complete boxset of the original TV series on Amazon.

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